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Academic Integrity Toolkit

The tools you need to help you succeed in university study

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is when someone else’s work is passed off as your own. It may include:

  • Using someone else’s words directly without accurately acknowledging their authorship (whether this is from a published source or another student)
  • Using ideas from someone else’s work without accurately acknowledging their source
  • Colluding with another student to produce the same or similar work
  • Passing off someone else’s original work (e.g. a commissioned essay) as your own

Although you may be thinking that you would never be so dishonest, it is possible to commit plagiarism unintentionally. Unintentional plagiarism can happen if: 

  • You are not careful about recording details or note-making
  • You do not learn how to cite references to comply with university standards
  • You do not fully understand the role that references play in your academic writing

These errors also put you at risk of committing poor academic practice. This is the term used when you produce work which may be fully referenced, but (for instance) relies too heavily on only one or two sources, or is generally too derivative (includes too many words quoted from other people and not enough of your own analysis and exposition), or is inadequately paraphrased (too close to the original). 

Self-plagiarism

You might wonder how it could be possible to 'self-plagiarise' - surely plagiarism is passing someone else's work off as your own? However, it is also considered dishonest to copy past work and include it in a new assignment submission. This might happen if, for instance, you have written an assignment for one module which has some overlaps in content with another. Submitting a new assignment which contains excerpts from any previous submitted work is:

- dishonest, as it is representing old work as new work

- likely to produce poor marks, as the previous work will have been written for a different purpose

You should also check what your School's policy is on exams. In some subjects it is not permitted to write about a primary text in exam answers if you have already submitted coursework on it. Check your handbook and module description and, if in doubt, ask your course tutor.

If you are a postgraduate, you may have some publications already (e.g. journal articles, technical reports, textbooks etc). If you include direct quotes from your own published works, or refer to them in your writing, you must include a citation just as you would for any other source. Failure to acknowledge your own published work is considered self-plagiarism. Depending on your discipline, it may not be good practice to include large extracts from previously published works in assignments for assessment, even if they are your own and correctly cited. For this reason, it is important to get the advice of your tutor or supervisor if you are planning to submit papers or monographs for publication while you are studying.

What are the penalties?


 

Both plagiarism and poor academic practice leave you liable to penalties which may be determined at a School, Faculty or University level. These can range from a substantial reduction in your marks (or even a mark of zero) which can affect your final degree classification, to a formal misconduct hearing which may result in your being asked to leave the University.  

How can I avoid unintentional plagiarism?

  • Read your feedback carefully – if your referencing has been criticised, find out what you are doing wrong and put it right before your next submission. A ‘second offence’ may be treated much more seriously, even if it is for another marker. Get some advice from your tutors or a study adviser if you're not sure.
  • Develop good note-making and record keeping practices – be thorough and accurate. Avoid doing ‘cut and paste’ research: read a paragraph, then write in your own words what you have understood and how it relates to your assignment brief.
  • Find out when you need to use a citation – acknowledge every idea you get from your research – not just direct quotes.
  • Understand how to use references to support your discussion – referring to other people’s work and showing how it helped to build your own ideas is a way of sharing your research journey and situating your work in the body of work in your discipline.

 

 This screencast will give you further guidance on avoiding plagiarism

Read the script for the video (PDF)

Is this plagiarism?

Which of these words or phrases do you think best describes each of the cases below?
 

just fine likely to get a low mark plagiarism
impersonation     collusion     fabrication
duplication      probably okay but not sure     

     

Jennifer is describing how she prepares to write an essay: “I usually read the books, then go to one of the free essay websites, find an essay close to the topic and use that. I always look up more info and change it round a bit before I hand it in.”

Jennifer’s approach is

 

Ed’s assignment was to ‘Interview three old people and use their experiences to evaluate a recent change in the benefit system affecting the elderly.’ Ed talked to both of his grandmothers and to his friend Tom (aged 20) who pretended to be 76. He used comments from all three interviews.

Ed’s coursework is

 

Abdullah had to write a report on student attitudes to referencing. He used interviews with his classmates and interpreted them in the context of published research on the topic. He gave full citations for the published research but put the transcripts of his own interviews in his appendices and referred to them there.

Abdullah’s approach to referencing is

 

Jon read six books while preparing for his essay but his notes weren’t clear about which ideas came from which book. In the essay he didn’t mention any of the authors by name, but made it clear that the ideas he used came from his reading and not from his own thinking. He listed all six books in his bibliography.

Jon’s solution to poor note-taking is

 

Marie and Deepak were told to write a joint report for a course they were taking, but Marie’s uncle died so she was away all week at the funeral. Deepak wrote the report and showed it to Marie, who said it was fine. They handed it in with both their names on it.

Marie and Deepak’s approach to getting the work done is

 

Mark was set an essay on managing diversity in the workplace. He found 6 pages of text on the Web that he downloaded, and added a copy of a table of recommended actions which he found in a book. The website had a bibliography so he used that, added the site itself and the book which the table came from. He made a new title page, reformatted the document, wrote an introduction and handed it in.

Mark’s essay is

 

When Sarah had to write an essay on Socrates, she found lots of good quotes in other books so about 75% of the final result was quotes. Every quote was marked with “…” and a correct citation in the text and she listed all the books in the bibliography.

Sarah’s essay is

 

 

These are the answers to the exercises:

 

 

Note: this exercise is designed to promote discussion so there may be more than one answer to each case. 

 

 

Jennifer is describing how she prepares to write an essay: “I usually read the books, then go to one of the free essay websites, find an essay close to the topic and use that. I always look up more info and change it round a bit before I hand it in.”

Jennifer’s approach is

plagiarism – she has claimed someone else’s work as her own, regardless of the additions and revisions she has made.

Ed’s assignment was to ‘Interview three old people and use their experiences to evaluate a recent change in the benefit system affecting the elderly.’ Ed talked to both of his grandmothers and to his friend Tom (aged 20) who pretended to be 76. He used comments from all three interviews.

Ed’s coursework is

fabrication – some of his data is invented.

Abdullah had to write a report on student attitudes to referencing. He used interviews with his classmates and interpreted them in the context of published research on the topic. He gave full citations for the published research but put the transcripts of his own interviews in his appendices and referred to them there.

Abdullah’s approach to referencing is

just fine – he has acknowledged the work of others and given the reader clear access to his own research.

Jon read six books while preparing for his essay but his notes weren’t clear about which ideas came from which book. In the essay he didn’t mention any of the authors by name, but made it clear that the ideas he used came from his reading and not from his own thinking. He listed all six books in his bibliography.

Jon’s solution to poor note-taking is

certainly likely to get a low mark, and may be seen as plagiarism as he has not fully acknowledged the source of the ideas he used.

Marie and Deepak were told to write a joint report for a course they were taking, but Marie’s uncle died so she was away all week at the funeral. Deepak wrote the report and showed it to Marie, who said it was fine. They handed it in with both their names on it.

Marie and Deepak’s approach to getting the work done is

probably okay but not sure – Marie has acted as ‘editor’ so she has taken some part in the writing process, but it isn’t a good approach.

Mark was set an essay on managing diversity in the workplace. He found 6 pages of text on the Web that he downloaded, and added a copy of a table of recommended actions which he found in a book. The website had a bibliography so he used that, added the site itself and the book which the table came from. He made a new title page, reformatted the document, wrote an introduction and handed it in.

Mark’s essay is

plagiarism – he has claimed someone else’s work as his own, regardless of the additions and revisions he has made.

When Sarah had to write an essay on Socrates, she found lots of good quotes in other books so about 75% of the final result was quotes. Every quote was marked with “…” and a correct citation in the text and she listed all the books in the bibliography.

Sarah’s essay is

likely to get a low mark as it is derivative - mostly other people’s words.

 

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